Welcome to Previously On, a column that provides you the rundown on the newest TV. This week, Valerie Ettenhofer critiques the brand new season of Crystal Moselle’s NYC-set skate collection, Betty.
In the second season premiere of HBO’s Betty, a stuffed octopus-cat falls from the heavens–or, extra doubtless, an house window–and hits the New York City sidewalk with a thud. The neon pink mass lands on the ft of stoned wanderer Kirt (Nina Moran), who offers it a as soon as over and says, as if unsurprised, “Okay, I feel you.”
Kirt adopts the octopus-cat, dubbed Octopussy, and carries it by means of the season like a sacred emblem. After a miscommunication with a Reiki healer, she turns into satisfied she’s meant to go on a quest, and earlier than we all know it, she’s develop into a kind of guru in her neighborhood, the patron saint of clueless skater boys. In the male-dominated world of metropolis skateboarding, all the women of Crystal Moselle’s immersive, freewheeling collection Betty could be saints; there’s Indigo (Ajani Russell) of the bleach-blonde eyebrows, pasty-wearing, camera-toting Honeybear (Moonbear), brand-repping Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), and Janay (Dede Lovelace), who’s on a mission of her personal this season.
Betty is a collection that thrives on vibes, coasting together with loose-fitting plot factors and lovely, energetic sequences of the central crew skating, dancing, and customarily residing their greatest lives. Though it maintains this distinctive vitality, the second season has extra narrative form to it than the primary. The women could have cast a near-utopian neighborhood for themselves among the many half-pipes, however that doesn’t imply the surface world stopped present. In this COVID-set season, every character is confronted with a menace to their idealistic sense of independence; money issues, relationship woes, misogynists, and crises of confidence all encroach on the Bettys’ (slang for skater women) makes an attempt to take pleasure in their younger maturity.
Moselle’s filmmaking strategies embrace casting actual skaters as a substitute of actors and utilizing a mostly handheld skate cam to match the move of motion throughout notably kinetic sequences. All of this lent each her movie Skate Kitchen and Betty’s first season a near-documentary taste, a degree of verisimilitude that made it straightforward to know and love the central characters in a brief period of time. Its second season is barely extra experimental, dropping in sometimes surreal moments paying homage to one other stylistically singular present, FX’s Atlanta. When one character is rolling on molly at a celebration, we see her hover above the remainder of the gang, shining all on her personal. When Kirt offers her newfound apostles a lesson on relationships, a blackboard wall behind her turns into animated with photographs to match her phrases. It’s an intriguing contact, one which contrasts with the collection’ hyper-realism however matches the perma-stoned mentality of a number of the skaters.
Betty has lots going for it, but when there’s one secret weapon that’s assured to get even the skeptics hooked, it’s Nina Moran as Kirt. Moran offers top-of-the-line comedic performances I’ve seen in current reminiscence because the ultra-chill charmer who ladies need and males need to study from. The collection takes an enormous threat making a plot in regards to the cult of Kirt after we’ve solely identified her for one season, however it is sensible; I’d observe her too. “You guys cannot just run around like a buncha ding dongs!” she tells the gaggle of males who’ve turned to her for recommendation. She lectures them on the wonders of the G-spot–female and male–and proves her price by flipping a water bottle that lands completely on the bottom. Kirt is the form of winsome, stupid-wise character that Matthew McConaughey constructed his career on, and Moran effortlessly faucets into her cool-silly dichotomy in each scene she’s in.
The story Moselle is telling could appear easy, however there’s an assured sense of rebel and self-awareness in each carefree group skate shot. The Bettys are a resilient bunch as a result of they need to be; they’re a pal group composed of principally younger queer ladies of shade, making their method in New York City in 2020. The world round them is each shutdown and laid low with grief amidst the Black Lives Matter motion and coronavirus pandemic. Gen Z has already endured monumental collective trauma, and there’s one thing radical and intentional about Moselle’s option to allow them to occasion and skate and love their method by means of this fraught period of historical past.
Betty is one in every of HBO’s least show-offy collection, small by any requirements, however it’s price championing. Like the subculture at its heart, it’s ferocious and courageous, stuffed with each love and good humor–a real underdog. So what are you ready for? Hop on board.